When People Work Together, the Possibilities Are Endless

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

The 2013 Creating Change conference concluded a few days ago and the attendees are back in their communities, hopefully spreading the word about what transpired over the four-day confab.

This was my first time at the conference, and I couldn’t be happier to have represented the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). There were many great moments, but I was most struck by the enthusiastic embrace of immigration reform. If attendees didn’t receive the message that immigration reform is an LGBT issue as well , then they just weren’t listening. From the first-ever Latino Institute to the myriad sessions to the Saturday plenary, the subject of immigration reform was a hot topic that had everyone buzzing.

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute

A packed house at the first-ever Creating Change Latino Institute.

At the Latino Institute in particular, which is where my Creating Change experience started, I was especially surprised by just how many Hispanics were in attendance. In fact, there were more folks who participated than the organizers had expected! Seeing so many LGBT Latinos in one place was really a beautiful sight to behold.

“We were very pleased with the turnout of Hispanics who joined us for the first-ever Latino Institute,” said Latino GLBT History Project President, David Perez, the head organizer. “I think our presence at Creating Change was certainly felt, which enabled us to truly elevate the importance of Hispanic issues.”

The Latino Institute even made it on to CNN!

Immigration was one of the most popular topics at the institute. During the several break-out sessions on the issue, attendees had the chance to talk about what kinds of solutions our leaders should be considering as the country dives deeper into the debate.

Rea Carey

Rea Carey at Creating Change 2013. Photo: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Once the conference was in full swing, I didn’t need to look far to find folks rallying behind immigration reform. Indeed, the support has come from the highest levels in the LGBT community. I had the opportunity to chat with Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, about it. Carey was very enthusiastic and optimistic that this is the year for immigration reform. She also made it a point to tell us that the task force is solidly behind the fight. This was certainly proven at the Saturday plenary session, which featured the prize-winning undocumented journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. He accepted an award for his leadership and also led a panel of undocumented activists. It was a spirited discussion, but what stood out the most was the fact that this conversation was being held in front of 3,000+ LGBT people. It occurred to me that Latinos truly have arrived. It was an inspiring moment and also was indicative of the collective power we have to cause change. You can watch the entire plenary below.

During the several sessions I attended, from those on school safety to marriage equality to how to do outreach to Hispanics, we were able to provide the Latino perspective for a community that has not always necessarily supported our causes. Going forward, I’m confident that our two communities will continue to work together toward the shared goal of creating change.

How I Came to Support Marriage…for Myself

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

Being at Creative Change this week put the issue of marriage equality at the forefront of my mind. Our partners at Familia es Familia hosted a session aimed at educating attendees on the Latino community’s attitudes and thoughts on LGBT issues. They’re positive attitudes, to be sure, but when you think about the top three reasons why Latinos support marriage equality and LGBT rights, they’re not so surprising. Respect, family, and opposition to discrimination are at the core of the Latino community’s values, so it makes sense that our community feels this way toward LGBT people. Like the rest of America, Hispanic views on the LGBT community have evolved toward greater and greater acceptance.

During the session, I started to reflect on the evolution of my own views, though it might not be the evolution you’d expect to hear from an out and proud gay man. Mine has been an evolution toward the acceptance of marriage as an institution I want to be a part of. Don’t get the wrong idea—I certainly recognize the marriage equality fight as one that we need to have. But the truth is that I haven’t always looked at marriage as something that suited me.

The reasons why I opposed marriage for myself are pretty juvenile when I think about them, but I can’t deny the fact that I held steadfast to them well into my twenties. They were mostly rooted in a fear of commitment, though I did my best to justify those views as anything but that.

As with so many things in life, however, my beliefs changed when I fell in love. Despite my best efforts, I was swept away during graduate school by a fellow student named Jim. This attractive, funny, and intelligent young man would eventually become my boyfriend and then my domestic partner. And, certainly to the surprise of my mother, father and even myself, I plan to one day make him my husband.

Being with Jim has helped me understand love and the power that marriage holds for those who opt for it. The federal government certainly believes in this power. One only need look at the myriad tax perks and benefits that the government confers on married couples. But not all marriages are recognized by the government. Not all people are given the opportunity to participate in this legal tradition. Not all people are recognized as equal. My relationship with Jim is not valid in the eyes of the federal government.

In a country dedicated to and founded on the principle of equality, any kind of discrimination leveled at a group of people, especially on the scale of marriage inequality, simply cannot stand. It is, without question, in nonaccordance with the ideals that are so eloquently prescribed in the Constitution.

But I have hope that change is coming. We have helped create this change and I don’t see our community giving up this fight anytime soon. In 2012, four states said no to attempts to codify discrimination into their constitutions. NCLR itself came out and stated strongly that we support marriage equality, and President Obama furthered solidified his commitment to the fight in his second inaugural speech. I firmly believe that marriage equality will be a reality. It’s only a matter of time.

But it won’t happen by itself. Achieving equality will continue to take passionate and tireless advocacy. I’m proud to work for an organization that believes in this endeavor. Every day more people and organizations join this fight, but we need even more allies in order to really be effective. So, if you believe in this cause and the overarching quest for social justice, join us and declare your support for marriage equality. We’ll both be better for it when you do.

Two Communities Finding Common Ground

By David Castillo III, New Media Manager

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute


In 2012, Latinos voted in record numbers and provided decisive victories all over the country. It’s safe to say that we have arrived, politically speaking. In recognition of this power, we have mobilized in myriad ways to make it known to other that our community is a force to be reckoned with. It seems other communities have taken note.

Consider the LGBT rights movement. Like others, the LGBT community has realized the importance and the value of having Latinos on their side in the fight for equality. Outreach has been made to find ways to work together and NCLR is proud to be joining in the fight.

One place where this outreach is evident is at the 2013 Creating Change conference in Atlanta this week. Creating Change is the premier conference on LGBT equality hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This year, for the first time ever, Creating Change is hosting a Latino Institute, dedicated to exploring the intersection of the two communities and to finding ways our communities can work together.

Judging by the standing-room only crowd, it’s clear that LGBT Latinos are also very interested in having these conversations. Topics ranging from marriage to immigration to family acceptance and the transgendered community were discussed at length today. The Latinos present understand the importance of this day-long gathering, but it’s important you understand why, too.

  • The LGBT community has had tremendous success in advocacy. Their efforts have resulted in legislative victories that are changing people’s lives for the better. Working with them and in tandem, our communities can learn from each other which can bolster our ability to be a truly positive force for change.
  • LGBT Latinos live at the intersection of two communities. They deserve the support of an organization that represents more than 300 community based organizations and should ensure that all Latinos, regardless of who they love, are protected from civil rights abuses that demean their existence.
  • Immigration reform. The LGBT rights movement has identified it as an important policy issue that affects not just gay Latinos, but all LGBT people. Presenting a united front with the LGBT community can only enhance our work to finally get immigration reform passed.

Check out Daniel Hernandez, our youngest LGBT elected official, talk about why he thinks it’s so important for the Latino and LGBT communities to work together.

So where do we go from here? That’s what we’re here to find out. At least on the immigration front, we have an idea. Not only is talk of reform a big part of the Latino Institute, but the Task Force has also made it a prominent part of the entire conference in general. This is a very positive move for the Task Force and we intend to continue the conversation with them and anyone else who wants to work together on getting this done. Will you join us to create change?

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Attends White House Latino Health Policy briefing

By Patrick Paschall, Policy Counsel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

(This was originally posted to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Blog.)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House about Latino Health Policy. This was a briefing organized by our friends at the National Council of La Raza, and was an excellent opportunity to hear from a variety of government officials about ways in which the administration is working to eliminate health disparities among the Latino/a population.

I learned a lot of interesting things and heard from an impressive list of speakers, including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the directors of many agencies within HHS.

While I knew the Affordable Care Act did a lot to help Latino/a people, I didn’t realize some of the striking information that was shared at this meeting. For example, nearly one-third of Latino/a people were uninsured in 2011, higher than any other racial or ethnic group. And 20% of low-income Latino/a youth have gone a year without a health care visit – a rate three times higher than that for high-income whites.

But what was really striking is just how substantial an impact the landmark health reform law has on this vulnerable community. For example, because of the ban on lifetime dollar limits — the practice that insurance companies use to claim you’ve spent too much on health care so we won’t pay for your needs anymore — has made it so 11.8 million Latino/a people no longer have to worry about going without cancer treatments or other life-saving treatments because of dollar limits.

Additionally, insurance companies are now required to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 on their insurance plans. This means that over 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage because of the new health care law, including 736,000 Latino/as.

You can find more information on these issues at:

We also know from Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey that the impact of racism and transphobia has a devastating impact on Latino/a transgender people. The report, which was conducted by the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that:

  • Latino/a transgender people an HIV-positive rate 14 times greater than the general population.
  • 23% were refused medical care due to bias.
  • 36% reported postponing care when they were sick or injured due to fear and discrimination.
  • And a striking 47% of Latino/a transgender people have attempted suicide.

At the Task Force, we have always held ourselves out as a progressive organization — an LGBT voice in the progressive movement and a progressive voice in the LGBT movement. We focus our work at the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ability and a whole host of other intersecting identities. The White House Latino Health Policy briefing is just another example of that voice — we were the only LGBT group in the room and the conversation wasn’t focused on LGBT specific issues. But we went to the briefing because we understand the importance of intersecting identities and of working with other marginalized communities to build our collective political power.

The expansion of health insurance access helps us all — especially those that are most vulnerable in our society. We have talked about it on this blog frequently – we co-hosted a webinar with the Center for American Progress to explain how the health reform law helps LGBT people, we’ve talked about the changes to cover women’s preventive services with no co-pay and we have highlighted the opportunities for LGBT people to find health insurance coverage for themselves and their families through the healthcare.gov health plan finder tool.

But it is also important for us to understand the impact of discrimination and health disparities on marginalized communities other than just the LGBT community. And the White House Latino Health Policy briefing was an enlightening glimpse at a world of health policy work that still needs to be done and a review of the recent progress we’ve seen. We would like to extend a huge thanks to our friends at the National Council of La Raza for inviting us in to the discussion and continuing our important partnership in this work.

Why We’re All About Purple Today

Today is Spirit Day, and that means we’re joining thousands of people, organizations, and corporations throughout America in going purple to show our support for LGBT equality and our opposition to bullying.

For us, there is no question that the fight for LGBT equality is an integral part of the broader fight for civil rights, which is why we are proud to call ourselves allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that when our communities work in tandem, we become stronger and move forward together.

Members of the Latino community, however, already know this:

  • According to a 2012 Pew Hispanic Center report, 59% of Hispanics say that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
  • According to a 2010 Bendixen & Amandi International poll:
    • 80% of Latinos believe that gay people often face discrimination.
    • 83% of Latinos support housing and employment nondiscrimination protections.
    • 73% of Latinos support gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
    • 75% of Latinos support school policies to prevent the harassment and bullying of students who are or perceived to be gay.
    • 55% of Latinos (and 68% of Latino Catholics) say that being gay is morally acceptable.

Those are the numbers, but just who are these Latinos? Well, many of them include members of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) staff. Today we’re taking the opportunity to feature some of them. The folks below are but a sampling of the many supportive staff members who believe wholeheartedly in LGBT equality and the mission to defeat bullying in all forms..


I’m a proud LGBT ally because my best friend and her new wife make a beautiful family. –Maria Moser (she’s in the black suit on the left), Director of Education, Midwest, NCLR

Vanessa Belsito, Senior Associate, Corporate Relations, Resource Development, NCLR

Ruben Gonzales, Deputy Vice President, Resource Development, NCLR

Meet Maya (above) and Bobby (below), two of the LGBT community’s youngest supporters. They’re also the lovely children of our Director of Education, California & Far West, Feliza Ortiz-Licon.

Sherry San Miguel, Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR


Naomi Sosa, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Samantha Ferm, Marketing & Outreach Manager, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR


Maria Fischer Millet, Senior Event and Meeting Planner, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR


David Castillo (left), New Media Manager, Communications, NCLR, and his partner, James G. Holmes.

Ellie Klerlein, Associate Director, Digital Organizing, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

Octavio Espinal, Associate Director, Office of the President, NCLR

So tell us: What does Spirit Day mean to you?


Happy National Coming Out Day!

When open LGBT people meet each other and are getting to know one another, it isn’t long before the topic of conversation steers toward coming out. It is a bond that those who have bravely decided to live openly share. It is something we wear as a badge of honor, for all those who have made the announcement understand the gravity of the decision to do so.

So, on this National Coming Out Day, NCLR has teamed up with the Latino GLBT Latino History Project to feature some of our supporters who live out and proud. Below they share their stories, why they decided to come out and why it’s vital that all LGBT people take that important step out of the closet. These brave men and women represent some of the best of our community and we are grateful to them for sharing with the world.

Why are you proud to be out?

I was stressed and tired of lying. I wanted to come out. I was tired of pretending to be someone else . I wanted to be out and be me.
–Cristhian Alonsso Lazaro
Lives in Washington, DC
Originally from Trujillo, Peru

 

 

 

 

I’m out because I needed to breath, I wanted to love and I wanted to live!
–Carlos Valdovinos
Born in Los Angeles
Lives in San Francisco
Member of the San Francisco Aguilas Organization

 

 

My name is Ivan. I am 21 years old and currently living in Maryland. People knowing my sexuality has been one of best things that I’ve done . Being accepted from friends and family and having their support is one of the blessings that I have. I can’t ask for more. 🙂 We’re all equal and should be respected for what we are and for what we like. I am happy to say that I have accomplished so many goals in life. One of them has been working with “Empoderate,” a youth center for youths. I am happy to say that I am their king for this year. Remember to be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
–Ivan Aguilar

Ms. Alexa Elizabeth is originally from Usulután, El Salvador where founded Mi Nueva Familia, a working group for people living with HIV and Transgender women. She also worked with the PanAmerican Social Marketing Organization (PASMO) as a health educator. In 2010, Alexa arrived in the United States and continued her work as an HIV/STI prevention educator with groups such as Mariposas, Empoderáte Youth Group, Casa de Maryland and Virginia Department of Public Health. She currently is a promoter for Miss Maryland Latina, an advisory committee member for the Latino GLBT History Project an avid advocate for Transgender Latina equality and the recently crowned Miss Latino GLBT History Project 2012-13.

La Sra. Alexa Elizabeth Rodríguez es de Usulután, El Salvador, donde fundó Mi Nueva Familia, un grupo para las personas que viven con el VIH y mujeres transgéneros. También trabajó con la organización Panamericana de Social Marketing (PASMO), como un educador de salud. En 2010, Alexa llegó a los Estados Unidos y continuó su trabajo como educadora en prevención del VIH / ITS en los grupos Mariposas, Centro Juvenil Empodérate, Casa de Maryland y el Departamento de Salud de Virginia. Es promotora de Miss Maryland Latina, miembro del comité del Proyecto Histórico de la Comunidad Latina GLBT, una defensora de los derechos de la comunidad transgénero latina y la recientemente coronada Miss Latina GLBT History Project 2012-13.
–Alexa Elizabeth Rodriguez

I’m out for those that can’t be. I’m out in politics to assure we are a force to be reckoned with!
–Roger Ortiz
Political Director
HONOR PAC
Los Angeles, CA

 

 

 

 

There are so many reasons to “come out,” but the most important one is so you can be true to yourself. I’m so much more happier out than I ever was in the closet, hiding from my friends and family. Those that accept me, I embrace them; those that don’t, well I hope one day they change their mind. There is nothing wrong about being gay
–Jonathan Morales

 

 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Gandhi
I am proud to have done many things, seen many things, and be many things. Among them, I am PROUD to be a Lesbian. My hope is that by living as an example others will be inspired to do the same.
–Lena Hernandez

 
 
 
 
 

It is important to me to be out because I stay true to myself. Because what you see is what I am. I enjoy every single day, every move I make & every step I take.

Es súper importante para mi vivir en forma plena mi orientación sexual. El sentirme feliz y aceptarme tal cual soy me hace una persona integra; y me deja disfrutar cada instante en mi vida.
–Alejandro Contreras
Lives in Washington, D.C.
Originally from Guadalajra, Jalisco, Mexico
 
 
 
 

Working with youth is a privilege I get to have every day. Being out as a young queer Latino professional has always been important to me because it allows those youth the ability to see that you CAN be true to yourself and succeed in whatever career they set out to pursue
–Ariel Cerrud
Unit Director
Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area

(This was originally posted to the Latino GLBT History Project Blog.)

When Marriage Equality & Immigration Policy Intersect

By Rubén Gonzalez, Deputy Vice President, Resource Development, NCLR

I asked my fiancé to marry me on an Alaskan cruise with my family, at sunset on one of the ship’s decks. We had already been together for seven years, but we had resolved not to get married until we could marry legally.

It was a long time coming and something that, when we started dating twelve years ago, we thought might never happen. In two weeks, Joaquin and I will be married in Washington, DC and will join the thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples who are realizing this dream of marriage equality that so many in the LGBT community continue to fight for so fiercely.

But are our marriages truly equal? Certainly, we share the same love and commitment to the people that we choose to spend the rest of our lives with, and like other married couples we will be surrounded on our wedding day by our family and friends. However, our love and commitment does not grant us the same federal rights and benefits that are guaranteed to heterosexual married couples.

As marriage for gay and lesbian couples becomes more mainstream and less of a wedge issue for politicians to exploit, immigration has, in many ways, assumed that role. And bi-national same-sex couples are caught right in the eye of the storm – affected by two hot-button issues.

Because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits federal recognition of same-sex unions, married gay and lesbian Americans cannot legally sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States. To the Obama administration’s credit, they recently unveiled new deportation guidelines that would prioritize the deportation of criminals and would review all deportations on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a person’s family relationships. And while administration officials have said that same-sex marriages will be considered under this family relationship category, they still have not created specific guidelines for these cases.

Unfortunately, as long as DOMA remains on the books, same-sex married couples will not have an equal marriage in the eyes of the law and will therefore need special protections. If federal law doesn’t consider same-sex marriage to be legitimate, an agent reviewing a deportation case might not, either.

Recently, 69 lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice requesting that they design a working group to handle deportation cases. This working group would not only be given specific guidelines in considering LGBT family ties in each case, but would also include a member who has experience working with LGBT immigrants and their families.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) wholeheartedly supports these efforts and encourages those who believe in marriage equality to call the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and request that they follow through with these proposals. President Obama has made it a point to reiterate that the arc of history bends toward justice. Same-sex couples who run the risk of being separated cannot wait for that arc to bend; the Obama administration must bring justice to us.

Joaquin and I are fortunate that we don’t have to navigate through this dilemma. Still, we cannot turn a blind eye to the injustice facing others in the LGBT community.